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The Background Investigator November 2008 Issue

A Record Vs. A History

By Peter DeMarco
Cited from The Background Investigator, http://www.thebackgroundinvestigator.com

Have you ever seen a copy of your official driving record? Well, getting one is pretty easy. I just did it the other day. Walk into any Registry of Motor Vehicles office, fill out a simple form, hand over $15, and they'll print one up. But what exactly is the document they're handing you?

Your driving record contains all in-state offenses you've been charged with over the past 10 years, as well as information about the current status of your license (active, suspended, etc.) and other important details your auto insurer might like to know, said Ann Dufresne, Registry spokeswoman.

The list includes surchargeable accidents (my last one, from 2001, was on there) as well as speeding tickets and other civil infractions, including tickets you've fought and beaten in court.

Why are those included? Though you've been found innocent, the fact that your driving has at least been called into question might help a police officer decide whether you should get a ticket the next time you're stopped, I was told. (Police have instant access to your record, as well as your criminal record as reported through the state's probation department.)

The Merit Rating Board, the state agency that determines how many surcharge points you've accrued as a driver, also sees your driving record. (Actually, the board is the first agency to receive copies of all motor vehicle traffic citations and court dispositions of criminal traffic offenses, which it enters into the Registry of Motor Vehicles database.) The board also passes your record along to your auto insurer.

I'd been tipped off, though, that my driving record didn't contain all the information the Registry has about me. "You have to ask them for your driving history," Charlestown traffic attorney Charles McGowan told me. "The history has everything. The record is bare bones."

The Registry had no problem providing me with my history, which looks much like my driving record except that it goes all the way back to the day I got my driver's license. (Feb. 22, 1988, to be exact.) But if I hadn't specifically asked the woman behind the counter for it, I wouldn't have gotten it. So be advised.

Why not just give everyone his driving history in the first place? Dufresne explained that while courts often require your full history, an employer might only need to see your recent history - perhaps not caring about the wheelies you popped as a kid.

Still, the Registry admits the system is confusing. In the near future, people who request their driving records will likely be offered a second form to fill out to obtain their driving history, Dufresne said.

"We're finding that more employers are upping the standards. It's not just enough to provide a simple driving record - they want to see the whole thing," she said.

Driving records and histories will likely be available online in the near future, she added.

"We know there are about 57,000 requests every year for driving records at our branches. If we could drive even half of the people to go online, that would help in our wait times," she said. Both your driving history and driving record are public documents. To obtain anyone's history or record, all you need is the person's name, date of birth, and either her license number or her current address.

Curiously (and fortunately), my driving history didn't mention a speeding ticket I got just a couple of years ago in New York. That was normal, Dufresne told me, as many tickets don't get reported to the National Driver Registry database.

The database, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, primarily tracks people whose licenses have been revoked, suspended, canceled, or denied, as well as motorists who have been convicted of serious trafficrelated offenses.

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